Monday, November 5, 2007

Save the planet? It's now or never, warns landmark UN report

Almost daily, growing scientific evidence is being presented which establishes --beyond reasonable doubt--that the earth is undergoing progressive global warming at least in part due to human activity. This process can legitimately be termed radical climate change which has already begun to affect many of the earth's most impoverished inhabitants in a most deliterious fashion. These include the destruction of entire economies and the forced geographic displacement of certain island and arctic peoples.

The UN Enviroment Program (UNEP) has recently published a 570 page report [GEO-4] entitled the Fourth Global Environment Outlook which outlines the extent of the problem we currently face. It is required reading for all people of good will. While many persons have yet to experience the negative consequences of radical climate change, millions at the lower rungs of the economic ladder have already done so in the form of excessive food, housing and transportation costs. If the growing problem of radical climate change is left unaddressed, more and more of the least fortunate among us will be placed in harm's way. For more on this critical issue see my 21st Century Global Challenges here.
The following is taken from a piece summarizing the UNEP detailed report.

25/10/2007 NAIROBI (AFP) - Humanity is changing Earth's climate so fast and devouring resources so voraciously that it is poised to bequeath a ravaged planet to future generations, the UN warned Thursday in its most comprehensive survey of the environment.

The fourth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4), published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is compiled by 390 experts from observations, studies and data garnered over two decades.

The 570-page report -- which caps a year that saw climate change dominate the news --says world leaders must propel the environment "to the core of decision-making" to tackle a daily worsening crisis

"The need couldn't be more urgent and the time couldn't be more opportune, with our enhanced understanding of the challenges we face, to act now to safeguard our own survival and that of future generations," GEO-4 said...

"The systematic destruction of the Earth's natural and nature-based resources has reached a point where the economic viability of economies is being challenged -- and where the bill we hand on to our children may prove impossible to pay," he added.

Earth has experienced five mass extinctions in 450 million years, the latest of which occurred 65 million years ago, says GEO-4.

"A sixth major extinction is under way, this time caused by human behaviour," it says...

Climate is changing faster than at any time in the past 500,000 years.

Global average temperatures rose by 0.74 degrees Celsius (1.33 Fahrenheit) over the past century and are forecast to rise by 1.8 to four C (3.24-7.2 F) by 2100, it said, citing estimates issued this year by the 2007 Nobel Peace co-laureates, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)...

Stressing it was not seeking to present a "dark and gloomy scenario", UNEP took heart in the successes from efforts to combat ozone loss and chemical air pollution.

But it also stressed that failure to address persistent problems could undo years of hard grind.

And it noted: "Some of the progress achieved in reducing pollution in developed countries has been at the expense of the developing world, where industrial production and its impacts are now being exported."

..."For some of the persistent problems, the damage may already be irreversible," they warned.

"The only way to address these harder problems requires moving the environment from the periphery to the core of decision-making: environment for development, not development to the detriment of environment."

See complete piece here.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

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